GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

Oh, baseball season, constantly in battle with yard season…

The bad thing is actually I’m off to help a friend with a new fence instead of working on my own new yard..

The good thing? yeah, I’m going to have to miss at least part of the game to get the work done.. the way the Twins are playing these days though maybe that is a good thing. Of course, it also looks like there might be a bit of a rain delay. It’s a bit windy and cool but I think they will get the game in tonight.

My fondest wish is that I’ll come back to the radio to find out the Twins have chosen to spite me and made it a fabulous game since I couldn’t watch. I’d still be cool with that.



Johnson, K, 2B Span, CF
Escobar, Y, SS Dozier, SS
Bautista, RF Mauer, C
Encarnacion, DH Willingham, LF
Thames, E, LF Doumit, DH
Lawrie, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Rasmus, CF Parmelee, 1B
Lind, 1B Mastroianni, RF
Arencibia, C Carroll, 2B
  Drabek, P   Blackburn, P


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 1 0 0 1 0 3 0 1 0 6 11 0
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 4 0 1 0 x 7 7 1

Our guys don’t do anything the easy way these days, but we’ll take a win at this point any way we can get it.

Nick Blackburn went 5+ innings for the Win. The 5 went alright, but the + part was a problem as Nick coughed up 2 home runs and a total of 3 runs in the sixth inning without recording an out. Fortunately, his teammates had provided a 4 run lead at that point, so he had a run of cushion.

Alex Burnett stopped the bleeding in the sixth and after Darin Mastroianni provided a key RBI single to provide a much needed insurance run, Jared Burton threw another of his patented 1-2-3 innings of relief work. Glen Perkins coughed up a solo home run to Encarnacion in the eighth, but Matt Capps slammed the door in the ninth with the tying run on 3B to secure the save and, more importantly, the win for the Twins.

Burton certainly earns baked goods for his performance, while Denard Span went 2 for 4 with a double and a couple of runs scored and Ryan Doumit came through with a pair of critical ribbies, also earning some pastries for their efforts.

But the Boyfriend of the Day can be none other than Darin Mastroianni, who not only collected his first MLB hits, but plated three VERY important RBI in the process! – JC

Darin Mastroianni (Photo: CapitalBabs)

A Hesitant Denard Span

I mentioned  recently on the Phil Naessens Show that I thought I was slightly more statistically inclined then the rest of the Knuckleballs gang and that I’d be trying out some additional stats-based analysis in the near future.  Here is my first attempt at looking beyond the numbers.

Denard Span will probably never again be the player he was in 2008 and 2009.   When he broke onto the scene as an everyday player with the Minnesota Twins he was hitting the snot out of the ball (with 14 home runs during those first two seasons, and only 5 since then, in just slightly more plate appearances), reaching base almost 40% of the time, and playing spectacular defense.  As a reward for his first two successful years, Span signed a 5-year $16.5 million dollar deal in 2010.  2012 marks the first year that Span will make multiple million dollars (3 million, to be precise) and there are still more than $11 million dollars left on his deal for 2013 and 2014, plus an option year at $9 million.  Span could earn almost $20 million more dollars before his next contract has to be negotiated.

Keiunta Denard Span

Right now, Span is hitting .298 and reaching base at a .351 clip.  Both of those numbers represent improvements over 2010 and 2011, and yet, his .715 OPS is almost exactly league average.  The other night in a GameChat, Thrylos98 wondered if “Keiunta” had been struggling lately.  I started digging around and looking for recent splits and performance tables and was able to confirm the suspicion, Denard Span has not been doing much of anything over the past two weeks.  He’s hitting only .205 with 8 hits (all singles) in his last 44 plate appearances.  Despite all of that, he’s hitting .298!  Span could simply jump out of his slump and become the high average, high on-base guy he was when he first joined the club, but looking at some of the underlying statistics, it is far more likely that he’ll hit .260/.310/.350.  He’ll be valuable more for what he does with his glove than his bat and with a line like that, he’s certainly not worth the $20 million dollars that could be headed his way.

In Span’s first two seasons with the Twins he walked in 12.2% and 10.4% of his plate appearances.  That number dropped to about 8.5% over the past two seasons, and in his first 29 games of 2012, his walk percentage sits at a career low 7.6% (MLB average is usually between 8% and 9% so Span has went from well above average to below).  While Span has historically shown above average plate discipline, striking out in just 12.5% of his plate appearances over his career, he’s striking out at the worst rate of his career in 2012, 15.3%.  Obviously a small sample size disclaimer exists here, as Span has only 131 plate appearances this year, but Span hasn’t done anything recently (4 walks and 7 strikeouts in the last two weeks) to make anyone think he’s likely to turn things around quickly.

A decrease in walks and an increase in strikeouts present problems by themselves, but are really symptoms of a larger issue.  In Span’s case, he’s hesitant at the plate.  He’s looking at more pitches than he ever has (61%), and he’s swinging at the first pitch less than ever (14% in 2012 compared to a career rate of 21%).  That’s a shame because Span hits .367 on the first pitch of an at bat over the course of his career!  Part of that could be the way that teams are pitching to him on the first pitch, but he’s hit .357 or better during three of his first four years in the league, and never worse than .329 until 2012, so it is unlikely that teams suddenly realized Denard Span was an excellent first pitch hitter.

And yet, here is Denard Span, hitting just a tick under .300 and he’s on base more than a third of the times he comes up to bat!  One of the biggest reasons why Span is still performing at or near league average is because of an abnormally high BABIP of .356.  A high BABIP means Span is getting luckier than an average player, turning hit baseballs into hits more frequently than 80% of the league.  The league average for BABIP in 2012 is just .290, and Span has been within three percentage points of league average the last two seasons, so he’ll likely regress to a number closer to .300.

My advice to Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins’ front office: Trade Denard Span before his performance really slumps and the $11+ million dollars left on his contract make him a liability on the open market.


GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins, 7:10 pm

so.. here’s your new look Twins… anyone wonder if the result will be any different? At least the weather is absolutely perfect…



Johnson, K, 2B Span, CF
Escobar, Y, SS Dozier, SS
Bautista, RF Mauer, 1B
Encarnacion, DH Willingham, DH
Thames, E, LF Doumit, C
Lawrie, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Rasmus, CF Komatsu, RF
Lind, 1B Mastroianni, LF
Arencibia, C Casilla, A, 2B
  Alvarez, H, P   Marquis, P









































well that just sucked… SOOOO many bad things about this game.. I really debated finding a copy of the Keystone Cops theme (interestingly enough called Bag of Rags) and having it play for anyone who pulled up this post but I thought that might be adding insult to injury for us fans. There was a ridiculous amount of miscues, bad plays, horrible officiating and in general, bad baseball. And the score didn’t end up favoring us either…

The only good thing I can think of from tonight’s game is that finally, the Twins came out on top of the HR count in a game against Toronto… thank you Willy… but that’s a pretty weak positive for us “optimists”.

Late Night Roster Changes

This is what happens when you’re sick and you sleep during the game and then wake up to take more drugs so you can go back to sleep. You decide to check Twitter and… wow…

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia has been struggling badly at the plate, with his batting average falling below the Mendoza line, and now he’s been optioned to Rochester.

Matt Maloney, along with his 9.00 ERA has been designated for assignment.

[Edit] Also in the ‘making a change’ category is Francisco Liriano who has been moved to the bullpen. As far as changes go, it was either this or the minors so I hope this works for him.

On their way up to the Twins from Rochester are outfielder Darin Mastroianni and pitcher P. J. Walters.

Mastoianni started the season in New Britain before moving up to Rochester after 9 games. In 20 games with the Red Wings, Mastroianni accumulated a .346/.393/.423 slash line with 2 doubles, 2 triples and 10 stolen bases.

Walters has a 3-1 record after six starts for Rochester, with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has struck out 25 hitters and walked only 6. Walters’ arrival means Francisco Liriano will be moving to the Twins bullpen, as the team announced Walters will be starting Saturday’s game with the Blue Jays.

With an infielder going to Rochester and being replaced on the roster by an outfielder, it does make one wonder what roles other existing roster members are going to be playing. Dan Gladden mentioned during the Wednesday night game broadcast that Alexi Casilla was taking ground balls at 3B, so we might assume he’ll be manning the hot corner, though Ron Gardenhire told reporters that Casilla, Plouffe and Carroll would all split time at 3B.

I hope Valencia finds his stroke in Rochester and can make his way back up before the season is over and I certainly hope Liriano finds whatever it is that he’s been missing.

– JC

GameChat – Angels @ Twins #3, 7:10pm

I really hope that we can repeat last nights result (ie the WIN) but more importantly, I would really love to see a repeat of that kind of starting pitching!!! It was really exciting to see a team NOT hit the hell out of the ball when we’re out there…

Is it asking too much to see it again??

And Congratulations to TC Bear! This is his 1000th game! that’s a lot of games to have never missed one since he started.


LA Angels


Trout, CF Span, CF
Callaspo, 3B Dozier, SS
Pujols, 1B Mauer, 1B
Morales, K, DH Willingham, LF
Hunter, To, RF Doumit, DH
Kendrick, H, 2B Valencia, 3B
Wells, V, LF Komatsu, RF
Aybar, SS Butera, C
Wilson, Bo, C Carroll, 2B
  Santana, E, P   Pavano, P




  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LA Angels 0 0 3 0 2 1 0 0 0 6 14 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 6 1

Another ugly game. Carl Pavano was clearly not himself but Josh Willingham hit his sixth home run and Brian Duensing threw three hitless innings of relief. – JC

Knuckleballs Podcast with Phil Naessens

It’s kind of funny but all the Knuckleballs staff here finally did a group outing with the whole crew – of course, since we’re in three different states, it would have to be online and funnier yet, we did it with a guy in Greece!

Phil Naessens is an American abroad running his own US Sports Blog/Podcast called the Phil Naessens Show. I’m constantly amazed at the number of people outside the state of Minnesota who participate with Knuckleballs but outside the country really blows my mind. He’s a regular commenter here in the off-season so you may have seen his name before but if you haven’t had a chance to check out his blog, you should definitely do so.

Last night – during the first part of the game – we all had a chance to Skype with him to record a podcast. I have to admit, it’s my first time EVER doing something like that and I don’t think I was alone. KL also felt a little on the spot but I think he was pretty kind in his interview questions over all so we didn’t sound like QUITE the idiots we were worried about… it was also his first time doing a whole group – so we were all experimenting on what could have been a complete free-for-all.

I hope you will give it a listen! May 8th Podcast. You can either listen to his whole broadcast piece or skip ahead to about the 42 minute mark and listen to us… Hope you enjoy it and feel free to give us some ideas about what you might want to hear from us next time!

GameChat – Angels @ Twins #2, 7:10 pm

No Denard Span tonight, but apparently that was the plan all along so we’re not supposed to read anything in to it. We’ll see.

The Knuckleballs crew is taping a podcast tonight during the first 45 minutes or so of the game, so if you don’t see us around, don’t freak out… wait until you hear the podcast, THEN you can freak out. Thanks to Phil Naessens for having us on. We’ll try not to screw it up too bad.

Go Twins!



Trout, CF Komatsu, CF
Callaspo, 3B Dozier, SS
Pujols, 1B Mauer, 1B
Hunter, To, RF Willingham, LF
Trumbo, DH Doumit, DH
Kendrick, H, 2B Valencia, 3B
Wells, V, LF Plouffe, RF
Aybar, SS Butera, C
Iannetta, C Carroll, 2B
  _Haren, P   _Diamond, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LA Angels 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Minnesota 3 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 x 5 12 0

Seven innings of shutout baseball thrown by a Twins starter… now that’s something we haven’t seen this season. Add to that 12 hits and five runs and you’ve got pretty much a complete effort. Josh Willingham had an early RBI double and Ryan Doumit hit his fourth HR of the season. Joe Mauer added a couple of hits of his own. Jared Burton and Matt Capps each added scoreless innings of relief.

But in his first MLB start of the season, Scott Diamond limited the Angels to just four hits over his seven innings and that’s good enough for tonight’s Boyfriend of the Day award!

Scott Diamond

GameChat – Angels @ Twins #1, 7:10pm

The Twins get a re-do against Jered Weaver.  Tonight they hope, not just for a single hit, but for runs, and even a win.

Brian Dozier is making his MLB debut and hitting second.  Dozier impressed in Spring Training and almost came north with the team.  He started off 2012 white-hot in AAA but has since come back to earth.  Let’s see how he fares against one of MLB’s best.

Willingham has the day off with the flu but could be available to pinch hit late if he’s feeling any better,  and Alexi Casilla is getting a day off to rest a sore shoulder he tweaked making a diving play over the weekend.

Here is how the rest of the lineup shakes out:

Los Angeles Angels


 Minnesota Twins
 Izturis, M, SS  Span, CF
 Callaspo, 3B  Dozier, SS
 Pujols, 1B  Mauer, C
 Hunter, To, RF  Doumit, DH
 Trumbo, DH  Valencia, 3B
 Kendrick, H, 2B  Parmelee, 1B
 Wells, V, LF  Plouffe, RF
 Iannetta, C Komatsu, LF
 Bourjos, CF  Carroll, 2B
  _Weaver, P   _Liriano, P


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LA Angels 1 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 3 8 10 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 3 6 2

At least the Twins got a hit tonight… six of them actually… and three runs, even. So that’s something, I guess. – JC

Monday, Grumpy Monday

I’m in a bit of a grumpy mood this morning. That’s not an altogether unusual thing for me on a Monday morning, but I generally try to avoid human contact until noon or later on Monday so I can spare others having to deal with my mood and spare myself the chances I’ll say something I’ll regret later. I certainly avoid publishing written work on Monday mornings for a broad audience to read. But, despite that, here I am writing this.

Here are just a few things I’m feeling a bit… what’s the word my mom used to use?… “owlish”?… about this morning. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Twins Stuff

My mood isn’t only reflected in Twins-related topics, but since this is primarily a Twins blog, let’s start with those topics.

Brian Dozier

I like Brian Dozier. I think he has a chance to be a decent infielder, but I’m not optimistic that he’s going to be the long-awaited “answer” to the Twins’ revolving door at shortstop. But even if he is, I simply don’t get why he’s being called up now to be inserted as the everyday shortstop.

It’s not that I think Jamey Carroll is irreplaceable, nor is Alexi Casilla necessarily entitled to be an everyday infielder at the Major League level. But if you start a list of all the things that have worked WELL for the Twins this season, middle infield defense would be one of a very short number of things on that list.

Have Carroll and Casilla turned EVERY double play opportunity in to two outs? No. But if you can’t see the improvement over the swisscheese-like pairings that were on the field last year for the Twins, your memory sucks. The Twins’ pitchers are, by and large, awful and the results aren’t going to get better by changing the middle infield defense.

Speaking of the Twins pitching… talk about your mood dampeners. Can these guys get ANYONE out? If the Twins sent their entire rotation to Rochester and brought up the Red Wings’ starting pitchers, Wings fans would complain about getting the raw end of the deal… and rightfully so. Not that the starting quintet in Rochester has been all that good, but the Twins’ rotation has been THAT bad. Sending Hendriks down and bringing Scott Diamond up is a start, I guess, but both the Dozier and Diamond moves feel an awful lot like the proverbial, “rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic,” to me.

I don’t envy Terry Ryan these days. There are no easy answers to fixing the Twins. There really aren’t even any difficult answers, if you’re thinking in terms of salvaging anything this season. He’s got a fan base spoiled by a decade of relative success, at least as measured by contention at the Divisional level. He’s got ownership that ‘s providing payroll levels at least 30% higher than the Metrodome days and expecting at least competence in return. That combination is resulting in fewer people showing up at Target Field, which means lower revenues, which means lower future payrolls, which means a tougher job to assemble a roster that can turn things around any time soon.

But while I may not envy Ryan, I don’t feel sorry for him, either. He may have just recently taken over Bill Smith’s mess, but his hands weren’t clean. He was playing a significant role in the scouting and player evaluation process, even while Smith sat in the GM chair. As a result, the players on this team right now and in the minor league pipeline are just as much Ryan’s responsibility as they were Smith’s.

I don’t consider Ron Gardenhire blameless, either, but I really don’t know what manager could win with this collection of pitchers. I don’t know enough about the pitchers individually to know whether better “coaching” from Rick Anderson would help. But I do know that the organization is fast approaching a need to DO “something” to keep fans’ interest… or at least give us some sign that they’ve at least noticed that the wheels have come off.

Maybe it’s my mood this morning, but if I were Terry Ryan, I’d probably make a change right now in my manager and pitching coach. The problem is, I wouldn’t necessarily want to promote anyone from within my organization to the manager’s job that would give the impression he was going to be my manager for the next decade. Maybe Gene Glynn or Tom Brunansky or Jeff Smith will be logical selections or maybe I’d want to open up the search to outside candidates, but I don’t want to make such an important decision hastily.

Paul Molitor

So here’s my Monday Morning suggestion to Terry: Get on your knees and beg Paul Molitor to finish out 2012 as your manager. He’s supposedly not been interested in a field job with the Twins, but maybe on an interim basis, he could be convinced to take things over.

As for the pitching coach…  I really have no idea who in the organization would work on an interim basis, but try this name on for size: Bert Blyleven. OK, OK… once you’ve stopped laughing, think about it… he couldn’t screw the staff up any worse than they are already and at least he wouldn’t be up in the booth the rest of the year. Then again, I’m not sure how they’d get the monitor hooked up in the dugout in a way that would allow him to circle fans in the stands, so maybe it wouldn’t work after all.

Vikings Stuff

I’m a Vikings fan, not necessarily a “Minnesota” fan, so I’ll root for the Vikings wherever they call home in the future. That said, I’d REALLY prefer they stay in Minnesota. It’s where they belong, in my mind.

Philosophically, I understand the opinion that public money shouldn’t be used for stadiums. Then again, I think we use public money for a lot of crap that it shouldn’t be used for, while our health care system in this country is the laughingstock of the rest of the world’s modern civilizations.

Some things just are what they are and among those things is that communities that want major league professional sports teams have to pony up enough public financial support to provide modern playgrounds for those teams every quarter-century or so. This is particularly true with regard to NFL franchises, which are, whether we baseball fans want to admit it or not, the most popular major sports organizations in virtually every community that has one.

For the past couple of decades, this has been a difficult truth for Minnesotans and their political leaders (and I use the term “leaders” loosely here) to grasp.

So, sometime late tonight, I expect the Minnesota legislature to defeat a bill that has been negotiated in good faith by the Vikings, the city of Minneapolis, the Governor of Minnesota and legislators  from both political parties.

And that’s a damn shame.

I’ve been a registered Republican for over three decades and over that period, I’ve been relatively active in state and local politics where I live. While I don’t want to turn this in to a political discussion, I’ll say that I’m disappointed by the way my party has been hijacked by extremists over the past several years at the national level. But if there’s one thing that makes me feel better about what’s happened to the GOP at the national level, it’s seeing what a bunch of political hacks seem to be running the GOP in Minnesota.

Sure, there were missteps along the way by all parties and governing is often about compromise. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” is more inherent to American politics than separation of powers.

If, as a legislator, you oppose public funding of a stadium, in principle, so that’s how you will cast your vote, I can respect that. But what the GOP leadership is essentially telling the Governor… and the people of Minnesota… is that it’s not so much opposition to the bill in principle that could likely cause its demise tonight, it’s that the Governor wouldn’t give them his signature on a couple of tax and bonding bills and they’re going to vote against the Vikings stadium bill as political “payback.”

If that means the Vikings are playing in LA or Toronto in 2013, so be it… at least the GOP won’t have let a Democratic Governor “win.”

If that’s what passes for statemanship in Minnesota these days, that’s unfortunate.

– JC